Appearing in 1970, Duane Michals’ Sequences became one of the key photography books of the decade. Michals’ (born 1932) concise narratives, typically composed of six or seven uncaptioned images, were surreal, provocative, mysterious and sometimes flat-out funny. They fueled a radically new direction for a generation of artists exploring the fictional potential of photography. Critic Jed Perl, reviewing a traveling retrospective organized by Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museums in 2014, called the sequences of small, black-and-white images “freshly minted fairy tales for adults. These surreal visual fables were shown at the Museum of Modern Art in 1970, when the museum was the arbiter of all things photographic. […] With [his] cosmic-comic sequences, Michals became photography’s genial troublemaker, seen by some as thumbing his nose at the lyric realism of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s ‘decisive moment’ and Alfred Stieglitz’s perfect prints. What can all too easily be underestimated is the quick, agile intelligence that Michals brought to his troublemaking. That’s what has given his dissident spirit its staying power.” Spanning half a century, Things Are Queer: 50 Years of Sequences brings together a generous selection of Michals’ sequences, including many that have never before been published.
“If I indulge myself and surrender to memory,” writes photographer Duane Michals, “I can still feel the knot of excitement that gripped me as I turned the corner into Rue Mimosas, looking for the house of René Magritte. It was August, 1965. I was 33 years old and about to meet the man whose profound and witty surrealist paintings had contradicted my assumptions about photography.” Testimony to Magritte's ongoing influence down the generations, this book records Michals' visit with the great Belgian painter, and invites the viewer to follow him in his journey through the private realm of an artist who was one of his earliest heroes. The revelatory images of Magritte's home and the portraits of its inhabitants are at once distant and intimate, private and representative, humorous and calm, reflecting the evident respect that the man behind the camera felt for his subjects.